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Top Ten Unexplained Themes in RPGs

29 Feb

Why do people just stand still, looking solemnly into your eyes with a cold gaze of death?
Or how about explaining why sleeping outside on the ground can miraculously heal any and all wounds, no matter the severity?
And what about no one seeming to care that there are people carrying around weapons and ammunition to initiate a small war at any given second?

These are the questions that are never asked when playing a Role-Playing Game, yet they are always there in the back of your head, eating away at your thoughts long after the console has been turned off. Most of these issues are just components of the RPG itself, but some of them simply don’t make any damn sense. Here are ten unexplained, bizarre, and truly peculiar themes in RPGs.


Airships, guns, cars, and technology we’ve never
seen in real life, yet no telephone


Prima Vista - Final Fantasy IX

This is one that just shouldn’t happen. If a civilization, nay, aworld has the technological advancements to create a flying fortress, then they should easily be able to make something to communicate with each other easily over long distances. Here’s how most RPGs would play out with telephones:

Reluctant Hero: Excuse me, Evil King/Queen/Other-Worldly Being, would you please not be a massive, unintelligent bastard and destroy the world? Your God Complex will only end in failure.
Evil King/Queen?Other-Worldly Being: F*** no!
Reluctant Hero: I was afraid you’d say that. Well, I’m going to call up every other army, good doer, and rebel to oppose you, thus negating any and all adventuring that would be needed to otherwise round them up, and then band together and put an end to your plans, say, tomorrow. Kay thanks…

I know it’s part of the adventure in the game itself, but even real-world history tells us we had telephones before we had powered flight.


Why do people ever die when there exists items that heal all wounds and bring people back to life?


Aerith Dies - Final Fantasy VII

The fact that people die all the time in RPGs boggles my mind. These characters live in a world where magical items can bring them back to life, yet people flat out forget about them and let that character die. Final Fantasy VII is the example that jumps out immediately (How many of you yelled “PHOENIX DOWN!!” at the screen when Sephiroth stabbed her?). And for that matter, why doesn’t an army stock up on these death-reversing items before they go out to battle to refill their ranks? It can’t be due to a shortage of said items, because there’s plenty of times where I’ve had over 100 of these items. If you were smart you’d horde them all up and either be a Christ-like figure dishing out miracles or a complete asshole cheating death again and again. Now there’s an idea for a good game…


Items are hidden in the most absurd of places


The Flute - The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

I get it: you want to keep your items well hidden so someone else doesn’t find them. Putting potions and eye drops in crates? Yeah, that makes sense. Keeping the most cherished and treasured sword in some abandoned, probably haunted, castle so anyone brave enough can venture in and claim it? Yeah, alright, I guess that’s cool. Killing a monster and finding 20,308 gold, three swords, some fresh apples, a magical ring, and three spleens on the carcass? Now I’m afraid you’ve lost me.

How can some monsters be carrying all these things at once? What, did they eat an entire village and thankfully they also have the world’s fastest metabolism to not show any signs of their devoured denizens? And who thinks putting a magical stone capable of summoning the greatest force the world has ever seen in a random ass town? And if there in the open for anyone to find, why don’t the bad guys just get them first? They always seem to have the upper hand initially, so they should use that to, oh I don’t know, stop your foes from gaining anything that could be used to easily thwart your plans. Not too many games do this, but most Final Fantasies, Dragon Quests, and even Fable II are guilty of hiding things in plain sight.


Nothing is ever locked*. No matter how precious


Opening chest - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

It takes away from the suspense when you find a huge, jewel-encrusted treasure chest sitting in a room all by itself, only to find that it’s not even locked. This one, though, I am grateful of though: the alternative (finding keys for everything!) would be tedious and annoying. But it does beg the question why no one ever though to but a lock on a chest or a door to an important room. I’d venture to guess that many a hero’s quest would be greatly halted when they couldn’t open a reinforced door.


*When there are keys, they open anything and everything


Frozen Boss Key - The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap

Going off of the above quandary, who is the locksmith in these worlds that makes keys which open all things? Whoever he/she is, I don’t think they know what their job entirely entails. But you know what, kudos to that person anyway: at least they are making it somewhat harder for things to be opened. Here’s another thought for any villains out there: Why not make a door/chest that is locked, and then DON’T create a key to open it? That’ll throw a wrench into the mix for our hero.


What is the exact diet of monsters in these worlds?


Classic battle - Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest

There are two answers for this question.
1) Monsters devour their enemies (i.e. other warriors and people) and thus consume their goodies as well (like swords, gold, and ingredients).
2) Fine dining to a, say, Slime, is not meat or delicious cakes, but rather swords and bat wings.

I’m sure you’ve wondered at some point in your gaming life why exactly the slain corpse of a hill giant has 1000 gold pieces, a wooden shield, three apples, and some rocks in its insides. At least this question has two viable answers that are pretty easy to see…


There’s no time left! Oh wait, there’s plenty of time…


On the Moon - Final Fantasy IV

Not to be confined to just TVs and movies, video games (notably RPGs) seem to have little to no grasp on the concept of time. At one point you may be told the world is in peril and will be destroyed if you do not act quickly, only to go on an adventure that has you relaxing at a hot spring, gambling in a casino, riding amusement park attractions, and even just walking back and forth between one city to another killing any hapless being that gets in your way.

Have you ever played a game in which the fate of the world could be determined in any second and ACTUALLY felt the pressure? No, you probably didn’t. And games that physically give you a countdown timer don’t do much better because you’re now going to rush through the areas, knowing full well you have plenty of time. I haven’t played a game yet that has succeeded at making me feel the constraints of time.


Shops have infinite money, even the shops in poor towns


What to buy? - Wild Arms

Got 99 extra potions you’re never going to use? How about that old armor that’s obsolete? Any other random things you have no use for? Sell them at any of the stores in any of the towns you’re in. Don’t worry, each shop has an unlimited supply of cash to throw back your way for your items.

Why is it that so many towns are only comprised of like, four buildings and a few farms, but apparently their shops have a small fortune in available cash? For better or for worse, this problem/circumstance has actually be fixed rather well in other RPGs. In certain games (notably for me The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) the clerk only has so much cash he can give you back for your items. So I guess that works….


Who else is traveling around the world that makes Inns necessary?


Checking Inn - Legend of Mana

It sure seems like everyone in an RPG has a home. People you talk to rarely say they are from outside the city or they’re just visiting, so why do inns even exist? Some destinations are literal metropolises and have huge hotels for travelers, but there are no travelers besides your party. It’s convenient that there are always beds for you to rest upon, but it can’t be a good financial system for the innkeeper. Maybe they’ve got a hook-up with the infinitely rich shop keepers.


There really is no problem that can’t be fixed by
hitting it with a weapon


Epic battle is epic - Golden Sun

And last we’ve got the solution to every problem in any RPG ever: simply beat shit up. Mad man planning on taking over the world? Beat them up. Miasma plaguing the land and killing innocent people? Beat up the source of the mist. Unknown evil forces planning mass destruction? Beat something up and you’ll create peace. This can’t be a good message we’re sending to our kids here, but hey, it makes me keep playing.


And there you have it. Just the ones that are off the top of my head. Are there any more that you can think of that I’ve missed?

Laters,
Jsick

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9 responses to “Top Ten Unexplained Themes in RPGs

  1. Westen

    02/29/2012 at 7:37 pm

    #1 for me is, how is it enemies get stronger and stronger as you go along through the world? Pretty convenient!

     
    • jsicktheslick

      03/02/2012 at 1:28 pm

      That’s a good one actually. And you know what, I really don’t like it when games do that (I’m thinking of FF8)

       
  2. baseallstar

    03/04/2012 at 12:58 pm

    There’s no time left! I love that one it’s so true, the build up of tension, world ending, everyone on edge and then do a bit of shopping, have a beer, change outfits a few times etc

    Excellent article, really good read and all totally valid points that we completely overlook when playing.

    On the other hand you’ve just killed RPG’s stone dead for me 🙂

     
    • jsicktheslick

      03/04/2012 at 1:14 pm

      Aww, I hope not! There are some seriously great RPGs out there worth playing, even with some of these questionable themes.

       
  3. John

    03/04/2012 at 4:38 pm

    I love this post. I often times don’t think about these things anymore because that’s just how these games are. These are peculiar idiosyncrasies that have popped up in this particular genre since it’s inception and people just grow accustomed to it thinking “that’s the way they are.” Still love ’em though 🙂

     
    • jsicktheslick

      03/04/2012 at 10:14 pm

      They’re in every genre too. Shooters have a bunch (why is there ammo everywhere?), adventure games have a lot (don’t other people see the orbs/rings/coins/items floating in mid-air?), and I’m sure there’s plenty more. It’s actually kind of fun to try to think of them…

       
      • John

        03/04/2012 at 10:26 pm

        You’re totally right! You ought to make a similar list for different genres… before I do! jk

         
  4. Eric

    03/05/2012 at 3:34 pm

    Haha, awesome list! Your second point is one that has always bugged me. Was there a specific reason why Aerith could not be revived? I don’t remember.

    I also want to know how the hell characters can carry dozens of weapons/armor/items all at once. Where are they putting these things??

     
    • jsicktheslick

      03/05/2012 at 4:20 pm

      It’s been a few good years since I beat FF7, but I think it was something like her having to die because she was part of the Lifestream or something…? I don’t know, it’s been too long. But there was a reason (though a bad one).
      And that’s a good point you make. I guess I just assumed they all carry around some sort of magical bottomless bag to store their items. It seems Western RPGs (like Dragon Age, Baldur’s Gate, and more) get around this by incorporating item weight that limits your carrying capabilities. And ya know what? I hate it when games do that!

       

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